Headlines October1, 2014

**Biggest U.S.-Led Strikes on Iraq and Syria to Date as U.K. Joins Campaign
The U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria has seen its biggest day so far with British warplanes joining the attack. At least 24 strikes were launched between the two countries, where the Islamic State controls a vast stretch of territory. Britain took part in the strikes for the first time since its Parliament voted to authorize the campaign on Friday. The strikes today have hit towns including Syria’s Kobani, which has come under a sustained Islamic State assault that has forced tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee.

**U.S. Not Following Heightened Standards on Preventing Civilian Deaths for Syria-Iraq Strikes
The White House has confirmed it has relaxed standards aimed at preventing civilian deaths for the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. According to Yahoo News, the Obama administration has acknowledged that a policy announced last year calling for “near certainty” of no civilian casualties in drone strikes will not apply to the current bombing. The admission came in response to queries about a strike that killed up to a dozen civilians in the Syrian village of Kafr Deryan last week. The bodies of women and children were reportedly pulled from the rubble after a missile hit a home for displaced residents.

**United Nations: Funding Shortfall Threatens Food Aid for Syrian Refugees
The United Nations has issued a new warning over the dire humanitarian conditions in Syria. Briefing the Security Council, Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said the World Food Programme will be forced to end operations unless it can obtain additional funding.

Valerie Amos: “Millions are short of food, of medicines, and almost three million children are not in school. Eleven million vulnerable people inside Syria require urgent humanitarian assistance, and of those, 6.4 million people are internally displaced. … Without additional funds, the World Food Programme will be forced to end its operations completely within two months. Rations have already been cut in order to continue to reach as many people as possible. Winter is fast approaching, and vital supplies are needed to protect people from the cold.”

**Taliban Launches Suicide Attack after U.S.-Afghan Troop Deal
The Taliban has carried out a suicide bombing on two buses carrying soldiers in the Afghan capital of Kabul, killing seven people and wounding 21. The attack comes one day after the signing of a U.S.-Afghan security pact that will keep 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after this year’s formal end to combat operations. U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the agreement at a ceremony on Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham: “This agreement will enable the United States to help the security forces to build on its progress after the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission comes to a close and as a new NATO mission begins. Our close defense and security cooperation will provide the foundation for Afghanistan to continue its impressive development and to build on the achievements of the past. Our agreement will also contribute to stability not only in Afghanistan, but throughout the region.”

The new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, signed the accord after his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, refused to ratify it.

**Tens of Thousands Continue Pro-Democracy Protests in Hong Kong
Tens of thousands remain the streets of Hong Kong in the fourth day of mass protests calling for greater political freedom. The demonstrations swelled over the weekend after a crackdown on students opposing China’s plan to select candidates in Hong Kong’s 2017 elections. Protest leaders have vowed to remain and take over government buildings until the resignation of Hong Kong city leader, Leung Chun-ying, and a free vote for his successor. Today’s protests come as China and Hong Kong observe National Day, which marks the anniversary of Communist China’s founding.

**CDC Says First U.S. Ebola Case Can Be Contained
A patient who recently returned from Liberia has been diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. The head of the Centers for Disease Control, Thomas Frieden announced the news on Monday, one day after the patient’s admission to a Dallas hospital.

Dr. Thomas Frieden: “This individual left Liberia on the 19th of September; arrived in the U.S. on the 20th of September; had no symptoms when departing Liberia or entering this country, but four or five days later, around the 24th of September, began to develop symptoms; on the 26th of September, initially sought care; and Sunday, the 28th of September, was admitted to a hospital in Texas and placed on isolation. We received in our laboratory today specimens from the individual, tested them, and they tested positive for Ebola.”

The CDC says family members and others who made contact with the patient after he fell ill could be placed in isolation to prevent wider infection. Passengers who traveled on the same U.S.-bound plane wouldn’t be at risk, because the virus is only spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a patient showing symptoms. At his news conference, Thomas Frieden said he believes this case will be contained.

Dr. Thomas Frieden: “The bottom line here is that I have no doubt that we will control this importation or this case of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country. It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual, a family member or other individual, could develop Ebola in the coming weeks, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here.”

**Obama Approves Asylum Plan for Migrant Children
President Obama has reportedly approved a plan that would let several thousand child refugees from Central America apply for asylum in the United States. The approach focuses on having the children apply from their home countries instead of making the dangerous trek to cross the U.S. border. The plan does not increase the number of refugees allowed in, capping visas for Latin America and the Carribean at 4,000.

**Oklahoma Modifies Execution Protocol after Botched Killing
Oklahoma prison officials have released a new protocol for executions following April’s botched lethal injection of Clayton Lockett, which lasted 43 minutes. Media witnesses described Lockett writhing and moaning in apparent agony. Lockett was injected with an untested cocktail of drugs, which included midazolam, a sedative also used in other prolonged executions, including one that lasted two hours in Arizona. The new protocol in Oklahoma allows the continued use of midazolam, but calls for a dose five times what Lockett received. Changes also include more staff training, contingency plans for when problems arise, and a reduction of the number of media witnesses at executions by more than half — from 12 to five.

**Secret Service Chief under Fire as New Revelations Emerge About White House Intruder
More damaging revelations have emerged about the Secret Service amidst an uproar over an armed intruder who made it inside the White House. Secret Service officials previously said Omar Gonzalez, a former Army sniper who was carrying a knife, was caught near the main entry. But it emerged this week he actually managed to run past a stairway to the first family’s living quarters and through the East Room before he was apprehended. The Washington Post now reports the agent who caught Gonzalez was off-duty, but happened to come across him after his breach. Secret Service agents had also observed Gonzalez around the White House in the hours before he jumped the fence. Appearing before a House panel, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson apologized for the incident.

Julia Pierson: “It is clear that our security plan was not properly executed. This is unacceptable, and I take full responsibility, and I will make sure that it does not happen again. … I am committed to the following: a complete and thorough investigation of the facts of this incident; a complete and thorough review of all policies, procedures, protocols in place that govern the the security of the White House complex and a response to this incident; and based on the results of that review, a coordinated, informed effort to make any and all adjustments to include training and personnel actions that are necessary to properly ensure the safety and security of the president and the first family and the White House.”

Pierson came under repeated criticism throughout the hearing, with several lawmakers calling for an independent investigation of the Secret Service’s competency to protect the president. The outcry grew on Tuesday with news that an armed security guard with a criminal record was allowed to ride in the same elevator as President Obama in Atlanta earlier this month, a breach of protocol.

**Obama Hosts Indian PM for White House Dinner
President Obama hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday for a White House meeting. Modi also met with top congressional leaders and Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry praised Modi’s massive reception before thousands at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Secretary of State John Kerry: “No matter how warm our welcome here today, we’re going never be able to top your rock star reception at Madison Square Garden. Billy Joel called me this morning to make sure you hadn’t taken his regular gig there. None of us have been able to turn on a television or pick up a newspaper without seeing the celebrity coverage that the prime minister has received. And with it, for all of us, there is a shared excitement and a sense of shared possibility.”

On Tuesday night, President Obama hosted Modi and around 24 others for a private White House dinner. Before his election, Modi was barred from the United States for many years over his role in 2002 anti-Muslim riots that left more than 1,000 dead. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, where the killings occurred. He has never apologized for or explained his actions at the time.

**U.K. Drops Terrorism Case Against Former Guantánamo Prisoner
British prosecutors have dropped a new terrorism case against a former Guantánamo Bay prisoner who spent three years in U.S. custody without charge or trial. Moazzam Begg has been held for seven months in Britain since his arrest on terrorism charges related to a trip he made to Syria. Begg, who heads the prisoner advocacy group Cage, has said he is being “harassed” for investigating British complicity in torture. Earlier today, a British judge ordered Begg’s release after prosecutors said there is insufficient evidence to bring him to trial.

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